Def Jux is THE premier and one of the most renowned independent hip-hop labels in the industry today. It was created in 2000 by Jaime Meline and Amaechi Uzoigwe after Meline’s group Company Flow had a falling out with its label, Rawkus. Company Flow, featuring El-P (Meline), DJ Mr. Len and Bigg Jus, had major success with its debut album Funcrusher Plus and was widely considered one of the most important and ground-breaking hip-hop albums of the late ’90s. The group’s relationship with Rawkus began fading soon after the release of their second album, mostly because the label’s primary goal was to enter the mainstream and Company Flow wanted to remain true to themselves. After time away from the studio, constant battling with the label over creative control and not enough promotion, El-P and Mr. Len left Rawkus and soon decided it would be best for both to go their own ways as well.
El-P formed Def Jux hoping that it “would again redefine the spirit and purpose of independent hip-hop music” and “to pick up where Company Flow left off.” The label earned worldwide acclaim and had impressive record sales from its first two releases, Def Jux Presents: Company Flow and Enters the Collosus by Mr. Lif. Not long after gaining attention, the up-and-coming indie label received a cease and desist letter from Def Jam in 2001 for what the label claimed to be name similarity. The parties settled out of court and the name was officially changed to Definitive Jux.
Other important albums that solidified Def Jux as the leading independent hip-hop label were Deadringer by Rjd2, Aesop Rock’s Labor Days, and The Cold Vein by Cannibal Ox. Some of the label’s most distinguished artists include Del the Funky Homosapien, Aesop Rock, Mr. Lif, El-P, Dizzee Rascal, The Perceptionists, Sonic Sum, Cage, The Mighty Underdogs, Cool Calm Pete, and Rob Sonic.
Del the Funky Homosapien, a hip-hop icon and founding member of the Hieroglyphics group, recently signed with Def Jux and released The Eleventh Hour in 2008 (which he wrote and produced himself). Here’s what he had to say aboutsigning with the label, “I look at this as an opportunity to spread the gospel a little thicker. El-P and I have known each other for a long time and I respect what he does. I see Def Jux out there doing their thing, I think we can help each other build new audiences. I’m looking forward to working with El-P and Def Jux on future projects as well.”
Although you won’t find many Def Jux releases in any of the major retailers, several can be found in independent music stores and all are available on the label’s website. They offer the entire catalogue on CD or as digital downloads and even have many albums on vinyl, including 7″ and 12″ singles. There is also a section on the website titled “Free Shit” that offers about 25 free songs from various artists. Despite the current state of the record industry, Def Jux continues to find ways to stay alive. Any label should be able to survive as long as it puts out good music, because people will buy it.
Another thing that sets Def Jux apart from other labels is its dedicated street team. It is very organized and actually has different ranks. The label has the most serious fans promoting their artists for free, while providing free goods in return. DEFCON “street soldiers” receive free music, shirts, hats, posters, stickers, etc. when they send in pictures/notes about each task completed. Those tasks include hitting up local colleges and high schools with information about upcoming releases, tour dates and special events.
By: Ryan Ford